While published Congressional responses tended to be more negative than positive, the opposite was true in responses from companies and other organizations, although not without some caveats. Not surprisingly, SpaceX founder Elon Musk—who got to give the president a brief tour of the company’s facilities at Cape Canaveral prior to the speech—was pleased with the plan. “Cancellation [of Constellation] was therefore simply a matter of time and thankfully we have a president with the political courage to do the right thing sooner rather than later,” Musk said in a statement released shortly before the speech, which he said could be as important as President Kennedy’s 1962 Rice University speech. “Thankfully, as a result of funds freed up by this cancellation, there is now hope for a bright future in space exploration.”
The Commercial Spaceflight Federation, an industry organization for the emerging commercial human spaceflight industry, praised the speech and the plan’s continued emphasis on commercial crew transportation in a statement that features quotes from people ranging from CSF chairman Mark Sirangelo to Bill Nye (of Science Guy fame). Said CSF president Brett Alexander: “The President’s message today was spot-on: the new plan means more jobs, more spacecraft, more new technologies, and more astronaut flights.” A similar group, the Next Step in Space Coalition, also endorsed the updated NASA exploration plan.
AIAA president David Thompson, who also is CEO of Orbital Sciences Corporation, called the speech “inspiring” in a statement released by AIAA. “As with President Kennedy’s speech in 1961,” Thompson said, “President Obama set out goals that will test our ability to advance technology, field revolutionary new systems, and sustain commitment over many years, ensuring the United States will maintain its leadership role in space in the 21st century as we were in the 20th.”
The National Space Society was “gratified” to see the president refine his space exploration policy, noting that it had “advocated for the inclusion of more detailed goals” when the FY11 budget proposal came out in February. The NSS planned to work with various players “to foster, achieve, and sustain the consensus needed to see it [the plan] come to fruition.”
The Coalition for Space Exploration, an industry organization, was more conditional in its support for the plan. In particular, the organization expressed concern that waiting until 2015 to make a decision on a heavy-lift vehicle design “threatens to sacrifice a generation of experience and expertise in our nation’s human space flight workforce.” The organization also worried about relying solely on commercial providers for human access to LEO. “In the final analysis, the U.S. human spaceflight program is a national imperative, not only a commercial interest.”
Boeing also raised the issue of delaying a heavy-lift design decision to 2015 as well as the uncertainty about what kind of crewed spacecraft would be used for missions beyond LEO. “[W]e believe the United States should be on a clear path to accelerate the development and production of this critical system, along with a deep-space capsule,” according to a company statement. “We have the technology and the people to commence development of these vehicles now.” However, the company endorsed other aspects of the plan, including the extension of ISS operations.
Aerospace Industries Association president Marion Blakey, who called for clear goals and a national space strategy in a speech earlier this week, was “encouraged” by the updated plan, in particular the workforce transition plan the president discussed in Thursday’s speech. “Now we need the more immediate specifics and short-term milestones that will allow us to measure our progress toward America’s space program and achieving the brilliant future he envisions.”